It might not be a question you'd considered, but some family vehicles are classed as light commercial vehicles because of their dual-purpose nature and, if you drive one, you need to be sure you've got the right insurance.
The car or van question is a grey area in insurance as a number of governing bodies have their own takes on classification.
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have classes for tax purposes, while the Association of British Insurers (ABI) have guidelines that work in tandem with the classifications of the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre (usually known as Thatcham).†
The manufacturers themselves also play a role when they categorise the vehicle use at point of sale.
As a result, each insurer treats the vehicle with their own set of guidelines.
It's confusing, but there are some very simple ways to tell if your vehicle fits into a car or van category...
If you search for car insurance through Gocompare.com you'll be asked if you know the vehicle's registration number.
There are also options within our car, van and motorhome journeys to enter a vehicle's details manually without a registration number.
If you can't find your vehicle listed on our easy-to-use forms, it's likely that you're searching for the wrong product.
Let's start with the obvious. If your family vehicle is a regular saloon, estate or hatchback then it is, without any argument, classified as an M1 passenger-carrying vehicle. Congratulations! You have a car and can compare quotes for car insurance.
If the sole purpose for the vehicle, as categorised by the manufacturer, is as a family vehicle for social, domestic, pleasure and commuting use - and the vehicle is not typically used commercially or marketed for business purposes - then it's a car and will be insured as one.
4x4 utility vehicles and double-cab pick-ups are considered as dual-purpose vehicles and will be insured as a van... Regardless of how luxurious the interior is
If it's designed for family use then it's almost definitely a car.
Key traits are fixed or collapsible sprung seats, windows and carpets. But be aware that there can be confusion over van-derived MPVs - if, for example, its chassis is based on a previous van model.
If there's any doubt, consult your V5 log book. Look for line J, vehicle category:
If your vehicle seats nine-to-16 passengers the DVLA class this as a minibus and you need a specialist insurance policy. You can find minibus insurance quotes by using our van insurance quote process, but please note that the policy isn't technically defined as van insurance.
Even if this is a privately owned and run vehicle, a minibus insurance policy is appropriate because the liability is far greater if any incident was to occur on the road.
If your vehicle has permanently fitted fixtures such as cupboards, a sink and a bed, then it's neither a car or van. It'll be classed a motor caravan by the DVLA and will need to be insured under a specialist policy.
You can compare insurance for motorhomes and their varieties - including camper van, compact, American RV (recreational vehicle), van conversion, low profile, coachbuilt or overcab and micro - in one quick search with Gocompare.com.
As with people carriers, minivans and MPVs there's a strong chance your vehicle will be classed as a car so long as it was originally created for social, domestic and pleasure use.
The problem here is when a manufacturer has classed it as a commercial vehicle but it conveniently lends itself to a family set-up - that is, it's a dual-purpose vehicle and will be insured as a van. Examples of this would be the Jeep Cherokee Pioneer and the Land Rover Discovery Commercial series.
Things get more confusing when a manufacturer services different markets with the same model.
A Mercedes Vito 109 Cdi, for example, is a van. But the Mercedes Vito 109 Cdi Long Dualiner High Roof model is recognised by HMRC as a car thanks to its side-panel windows, carpets and additional seats. To many insurers, though, it would be treated as a dual-purpose vehicle and insured as a van.
Dual-purpose vehicles are also commonly known as light commercial vehicles. Many have the comfort and luxury of a car - some are often described as style-oriented pick-ups - but they are actually classed as a commercial vehicle because they were originally designed with cargo or other roles in mind.
If you have any doubt, firstly check your V5 log book. And if you're still none the wiser, make sure you contact your insurer
The key vehicles in question are the larger 4x4 utility vehicles and double-cab pick-ups. Even with rigid, fixed seats, windows and carpets, it's still considered a dual-purpose vehicle and will be insured as a van... Regardless of how luxurious its interior is.
Your vehicle is likely to be classed as a van, or as another form of specialist motor, if it has one or more of the following:
If you have any doubt, firstly check your V5 log book. And if you're still none the wiser, make sure you contact your insurer.